The Tent Partnership for Refugees, a network of over 180 major companies committed to refugees’ economic integration, today launched a mentorship initiative for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) refugees in the UK. Announced at a virtual summit, the event was co-hosted by Stonewall, Europe’s leading LGBTQ equality organization, to mobilize the business community to better prepare LGBTQ refugees to enter the UK workforce.
Nineteen major companies in the UK — spanning sectors from financial services, to consumer goods and professional services — have today joined the initiative, announcing their collective commitment to provide mentorship to 615 LGBTQ refugees over the next three years. Bain, Biogen, Citi, Coca-Cola together with Costa Coffee and innocent, Endeavor, GSK, Hilton, Jacobs, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Linklaters, McKinsey, Novartis, PayPal, Pfizer, PwC, Santander, The Very Group, and Unilever have each pledged to mentor at least 50 LGBTQ refugees via their LGBTQ Employee Resource Groups. Mentors at these companies will prepare LGBTQ refugees to enter the job market by helping them with their CVs, advising on interview etiquette, as well as expanding their professional networks. The initiative will also seek to include LGBTQ refugees from Afghanistan who have been and will be resettled in the UK.
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Tent and CEO and founder of Chobani — a major US food company that has hired hundreds of refugees — said: “I am so proud of the companies that have joined us today in standing up for LGBTQ refugees, who are among the most vulnerable. Getting a job is one of the most important things to help refugees integrate in their communities — but LGBTQ refugees face so many hurdles. With many companies in the UK struggling to fill jobs as the economy gathers pace, businesses will benefit hugely from preparing these talented and resilient people to enter the workforce.”
Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall and a long-time campaigner for refugee rights, added: “LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing their countries because of who they are and who they love. But even when they reach a safe country, like the UK, their struggles do not end there. Not only do they face discrimination because of their LGBTQ identity, but they’ll often be overlooked by employers because of gaps in their CVs, lack of credentials, or because they lack professional and personal networks to help them get a job. Partnering with Tent and the business community on this initiative will meaningfully impact the lives of countless LGBTQ+ refugees.”
Some LGBTQ refugees have fled violence and conflict alongside their compatriots, but face additional challenges in their new countries as LGBTQ individuals; others have been forced to flee their homes due to persecution directly related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sixty-nine countries still criminalize same-sex relations, and nine may impose the death penalty. Transgender people face huge levels of discrimination and violence without legal recourse in countries around the globe. While there are no official figures available, it is estimated that the UK hosts thousands of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.
Moud Goba, an LGBTQ refugee and activist originally from Zimbabwe residing in the UK who works at Micro Rainbow — a non-profit dedicated to supporting LGBTQ refugees in the UK and which will be partnering with Tent and Stonewall on the implementation of the mentorship program — said: “In a lot of countries it is still criminalized to be yourself — It was what made me seek asylum. I have seen first hand so many LGBTQ refugees in the UK living in poverty because they are ostracized from society — sometimes, their language barriers mean they face extreme isolation on top of dealing with the trauma they faced. This initiative will be so critical in helping refugees build new connections and help them with practical skills as they get back on their feet.”
Speaking about Unilever’s decision to join the UK initiative, Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever, said, “Unilever is very pleased to be able to participate in the Tent Partnership for Refugees’ vital work and to help support refugees who are members of the LGBTQI+ community. By pairing up with members from our own Unilever LGBTQI+ community, proUd, we hope that we can make a positive difference by mentoring refugees and asylum seekers during this very important time in their lives.”
The launch of the initiative comes months after the establishment of a similar scheme in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, in the U.S, Canada and Mexico — where over 20 companies including Hilton, IBM, and Under Armour are mentoring more than 1,800 LGBTQ refugees over three years and helping them find employment.
To encourage more businesses to take part, Tent, Stonewall, and Micro Rainbow have unveiled a practical mentorship guide to support companies through the process of mentoring LGBTQ refugees.